A stunning display of light and technology, the i7 is a new era of luxury for BMW.
Seven generations of the BMW 7 Series have waged war with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. But for seven generations, they've all been powered by a series of explosions as liquefied dinosaurs wafted the wealthy along in comfort. Now, for the first time in the 7 Series' history, that's no longer the case, as the 2023 BMW i7 has officially arrived as an all-electric alternative to combustion-powered luxury. Unlike other luxury automakers building bespoke platforms for their EVs, the BMW i7 shares the CLAR platform with the regular 7 Series. It shares more than just that, and aside from its electric powertrain, it's identical in every other way. No longer is an i model a standalone derivative, but now, the i7 xDrive60 is just another option within an all-new 7 Series lineup. Targeting the Mercedes EQS, this is Bimmer luxury at its silent finest.
Recently revealed to CarBuzz in secret at an event parallel to the New York Auto Show, the BMW i7's release date in the USA is pegged for the last quarter of 2022 alongside the regular 7 Series. Shipping commences in November of this year, so depending on demand, you may only see yours in early 2023. Pre-orders for the electric luxury sedan are now open.
The price of the 2023 BMW i7 electric sedan is expectedly high. At the time of launch, it's the most expensive 7 Series derivative available with an MSRP of $119,300 excluding a $995 destination fee. For reference, the gasoline-powered 760i xDrive has a cost of $113,600 while the Mercedes EQS starts at $102,310 for a less powerful version. A comparative EQS performance-wise starts at $119,110.
From the outside, the BMW i7 looks just like the 7 Series, which is to say it's big, bold, and relies heavily on two things to define its character - surfacing, and a face that will dominate every discussion about the new 7 family for the next five years. Inheriting a design language from the 2023 BMW X7, the i7 gets a split headlight design with LED DRLs up top comprising 14 LEDs in daytime operation and 22 at night and a lower, blacked-out cluster housing low and high-beam LED headlights. The grille is large but less offensive than other Bimmers, although the illuminated surround draws attention to it in a very indiscreet manner.
Despite the 2023 i7 being electric, its exterior looks just like that of the 7 Series, right down to the grille having recessed chrome bars to create the impression of a traditional grille. The only real giveaways of its electric nature are blue trim elements (the front splitter, side sills, rear bumper, and badge); even the charge port is located where the regular fuel filler cap is on the 7 Series.
Many of the styling elements seem like throwbacks to early 7 Series models, like simple taillight designs, a chunky-but-classic Hofmeister kink in the C-pillar, and retro-design 20-inch alloy wheels. Smaller 19-inch items and larger 21-inch wheels with performance tires are available. There's even a hint of the Chris Bangle era of BMW design, focusing on body surfacing to create an identity. The exterior of the BMW i7 is monolithic, with clean surfaces especially in the side profile - amplified by the flush door handles that grant access to automatically opening doors that are more Rolls-Royce than BMW.
Another Rolls-Royce-inspired element is the first availability of two-tone paint jobs on a BMW 7. Under the BMW Individual banner, the roof can be had in one of two shades, while five hues can be chosen for the lower half of the vehicle. Between these zones, a pinstripe separates the two in classy fashion. As far as standard options go, colors for the BMW i7 comprise model-exclusive metallic shades of Dark Graphite, Sparkling Copper, and Space Silver in addition to 11 standard colors (one non-metallic and ten metallic) shared with the regular 7 Series.
Further customization comes in the form of the M Sport Professional Package, with a rear spoiler, dark Shadowline trim in place of illumination, and blue brake calipers.
In order to assert its dominance over rivals, the BMW i7's dimensions have increased substantially compared to the last 7 Series. Now 5.1 inches longer, 1.9 inches wider, and two inches taller, the i7 is truly a full-size luxury sedan. Its overall length measures 212.2 inches, while its width and height are 76.8 inches and 70.8 inches, respectively. The wheelbase now measures 126.6 inches, two-tenths of an inch longer than the outgoing 7. No curb weight has been mentioned at launch for any of the derivatives, but with the increase in size and the addition of a battery pack, the i7 won't escape at under 5,500 lbs.
The BMW i7 has no engine. That's because it's an all-electric version of the regular 7 Series sedan. Instead, it houses a 4.3-inch-tall high-voltage battery pack within the floor of the vehicle and twin electric motors to provide permanent all-wheel drive. The motor on the front axle produces 255 horsepower, while the one at the rear generates 308 hp. In tandem, the system outputs are claimed at 536 hp and 549 lb-ft of torque. Zero to sixty takes a scant 4.5 seconds - quicker than any chauffeur-driven luxury sedan really needs to be - with a top speed electronically limited to 149 mph.
Performance is further enhanced by double-wishbone front suspension and a five-link rear suspension, along with bespoke motor mounts for the i7's unique powertrain. Air suspension - independent on the front and rear axle - has electronically controlled dampers and adjustable ride height, while standard rear-axle steering at angles of up to 3.5 degrees (the Mercedes EQS has up to 4.5 degrees standard and 10 degrees optionally) aids maneuverability and stability, reducing the turning circle by 2.5 ft. Technologically, BMW has upgraded its systems with active roll stabilization and even a new stability control system that responds quicker and more times per second than typical systems, intervening less frequently, but more meaningfully.
The all-important specs for most EV lovers (and haters) is how far can it go on a charge and how long will it take to recharge. Using lessons learned from the iX and i4's charging systems, BMW has reworked the charging software for maximum efficiency, controlling the battery's temperature regulation to improve charge times. The battery itself boasts 101.7 kWh of usable charge, giving the electric sedan a 300-mile range on the EPA cycle (verification pending). Regenerative braking is standard, automatically increasing resistance as you approach a traffic light or on a downhill, regardless of whether the GPS system has been programmed or not, while a coasting function on the open road enhances efficiency further. The cloud-based GPS will even factor in state-of-charge when planning routes to ensure EA stations are available along your route.
As for charging, the i7 xDrive60 can charge at 11 kW on an AC system and 195 kW on a DC system. 80 miles of range can be recuperated in 10 minutes using the latter. Equivalent MPG figures have not yet been provided.
Part and parcel of buying an i7 is the inclusion of three years of complimentary charging access at Electrify America stations across the US.
We have to start the interior section from outside the i7, as the new BMW Digital Key Plus turns your Apple iPhone into a key via a mobile app. From there, it remains in your pocket, as the door will automatically open as you approach (within 10 feet) and close as you walk away. On approach, the "Great Entrance Moments" system plays a lights show for you both inside and outside the car, the puddle lighting creates a dynamic light carpet, and a user-specific animation plays on the curved BMW infotainment-cum-instrumentation screen.
The BMW Curved Display comprises a 12.3-inch instrumentation display and a 14.9-inch infotainment display beneath one shared glass surface featuring touch control and redundant controls via the iDrive rotary controller. The system is augmented by a backlit 'interaction bar' around the interior that lights up in various colors to take ambient lighting to a new level, even assisting with safety systems and warnings and showcasing animations for incoming phone calls. Drivers get a newly-designed twin-spoke steering wheel with a flat bottom, while the shift lever and iDrive controller boast a sleek crystal design.
The best seats in the new BMW i7 sedan are undoubtedly the rear items. Once cocooned in the rear of the car, a 5.5-inch touchscreen display is present in the trim of each door to create a totally unique experience for each rear occupant. You'll likely never notice these as they're completely overshadowed by the BMW Theater Screen, a huge 31.3-inch roof-mounted touchscreen with 8K resolution and built-in Amazon Fire TV. Enhancing the experience is an optional 36-speaker, 1,965-watt Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound system with the option of in-seat bass drivers, or two sets of Bluetooth headphones. The standard sound system is a 655-watt 18-speaker setup.
When you're not staring at a giant screen, a standard glass roof, dubbed "Panoramic Sky Lounge" provides loads of pantomime. The sliding shade has woven LED-backlit threads that mimic the lighting effects of the various trim pieces around the cabin.
The seats are naturally plush and comfortable, with heating, ventilation, and massage functionality all available. The Executive Lounge option adds 42.5-degree reclination to the rear backrest, with an extendable calf support to let you really stretch out. Standard upholstery in the i7 is extended Merino leather with a diamond-quilted pattern. Colors here include Amarone, Smoke White, Mocha, Black, and Tartufo, along with a selection of open-pore wood trim inserts, among other detailing options.
Last but not least, the enhanced proportions of the i7 benefit its practicality as well. Not only is there more rear legroom, but the trunk space is an impressive 17.7 cubic feet, down from the standard 7 Series' 19.1-cubic-foot cargo space.
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